GREENSBURG-Fueled by a pressure defense that forced 17 steals, Vincentian Academy put together a fabulous 17-4 third-quarter run that brought an end to the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic Lady Marauders' season in the PIAA Class A semifinals for the second straight season.
Bishop Guilfoyle overcame an early 11-2 deficit to go ahead at halftime, 34-28, but District 7 champion Vincentian, led by 6-foot-1 junior forward Brenna Wise's game-high 38 points, stormed from behind to carry the third quarter and record a 60-45 victory Tuesday night at the Hempfield Area Senior High School gymnasium.
Vincentian Academy (26-3) punched its ticket into Saturday's noon PIAA championship game against Old Forge of District 2, which logged a 43-31 win over Phil-Mont Christian in the eastern part of the state in Tuesday's other Class A semifinal.
Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic's talented underclassmen-dominated group ended its season with a 23-6 record.
"We talked a lot about taking care of the ball, but that was easier said than done tonight,'' BG coach Mark Moschella said. "[Vincen-tian] is a very athletic team that posed problems for us. Defensively, they cut off the passing lanes pretty well and got a lot of steals with their athleticism.''
Wise, who also made 19 of 23 free throws in the game, scored nine points in the third quarter, when Vincentian mounted its comeback.
Wise converted a steal into a lay-in and 3-point play after she was fouled on the move, and made the subsequent free throw to pull Vincentian to within one point, 34-33.
Wise picked up another steal and layup to move Vincentian ahead, 37-34 later in the quarter.
"She has great ballhandling skills, and she poses problems because of her overall size,'' Moschella said of Wise, who also corralled a game-high 14 rebounds.
Wise said that Vincentian benefited from a halftime speech from its head coach, Ron Moncrief.
"I think reality set in,'' Wise said. "Coach asked us at halftime if we thought it was good enough to [merely] make it to the semis. We were going to leave everything out there in the second half, and have no regrets.''
After two free throws by BG senior forward Annie Dombrowski moved the Lady Marauders to within a point, 37-36, senior guard Kayla Key drove through the key for a field goal to put Vincentian ahead, 39-36 before sophomore guard Torrieonna Cash's 3-pointer from the left side put Vincentian up, 42-36 with 2:20 remaining in the third.
Another 3-pointer from the right side by sophomore Kiersten Elliott closed the third-quarter scoring and gave Vincentian a 45-36 lead after three stops.
"It was all about heart,'' said Wise. "They're a great team, and we're a great team. It was all about executing, and about who wanted it more.''
Moncrief said that his team definitely wanted a return trip to the PIAA Class A championship game, where it hopes to avenge last year's loss to Tri-Valley.
"We knew BG was very patient on offense, and we had to go to our press to try to force some steals,'' Moncrief said. "It feels great to be going back to the state finals. Hopefully, it will be a different outcome for us this year than last year.''
Vincentian continued to ride its third-quarter momentum into the fourth quarter, which it carried 15-7 to build a 56-41 lead on Key's bucket that capped an 11-point run.
"They're a really good team,'' BG freshman forward Lili Benzel said of Vincentian. "We could have played a better defensive game, but in the third quarter, they pressed us and we couldn't get the ball up the floor. I felt that we really improved in the fourth quarter, but the game got out of control in the third.''
Dombrowski scored 10 of her team-leading 14 points in the first half, including eight in the first period, as BG wiped out the 11-2 deficit to pull into a 15-15 tie after one quarter.
With sophomore guard Maria Scipioni draining a pair of 3-pointers and freshman guard Macy Adams adding another, BG carried the second quarter, 19-13, to take a 34-28 halftime lead.
"We showed a lot of savvy coming back,'' Moschella said.
Adams, who scored 11 points in the game - including nine of three 3-pointers - felt the third quarter was pivotal.
"I think in the third quarter that if we wouldn't have turned the ball over so much, we could have come back,'' she said.
The comeback trail will continue next season for the Lady Marauders, who return four of five starters - including Adams, Benzel, freshman Karis Taddei, and sophomore Alyssa McGhee.
"There could be more good days ahead if these players keep working in the offseason,'' Moschella said.
BISHOP GUILFOYLE (45): Benzel 3 0-0 6, McGhee 0 0-0 0, Adams 3 2-2 11, Dombrowski 6 2-2 14, Taddei 0 2-2 2, Scipioni 2 0-0 6, Lewis 1 2-2 4, Miller 0 0-0 0, Ruggery 0 0-0 0, Spencer 0 0-0 0, DeLeo 1 0-0 2, Irvin 0 0-0 0. Totals-16 8-8 45.
VINCENTIAN (60): Cash 3 0-2 7, Bartoszewicz 1 0-0 2, Key 3 1-2 7, Joiner 0 0-1 0, Ellliot 2 0-0 5, Wise 9 19-23 38, Herring 0 0-0 0, Catozella 0 0-0 0, Bigi 0 0-0 0, Galbraith 0 0-0 0. Totals-18 20-28 60.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Bishop Guilfoyle 15/19/14/7-45
Three-point field goals: Bishop Guilfoyle 5 (Adams 3, Scipioni 2); Vincentian 3 (Wise, Cash, Elliott).
Officials: David Lapp, Jim Settembrino, Mike Pruss.